Tag Archives: history

Love Wins

22 Oct

Here’s how I  celebrated National Coming Out Day:

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After dancing and drinking and eating and celebrating and sleeping (some) and celebrating more with family and friends who flew in and drove in from California, Wisconsin and Texas … half of whom crashed in our basement 🙂 … Kelly and I packed the Prius and took a honeymoon road trip from Chicago, Illinois to Asheville, North Carolina.

If you follow such things, you may realize this put us in Asheville THREE DAYS after legal marriage reached the same-sex couples in that state! We told EVERYONE we just got married – and they were elated. “Did you get married HERE?!” they all asked. All of them. Proudly. “No, we got married in Chicago,” we told them. “We’re here for our Honeymoon!”

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Champagne and chocolates awaited us in our room the first night.

I penned a few thoughts about marriage that first morning, looking out on this:

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Someday, I’ll share those thoughts – about marriage itself, weddings, lifelong commitment, and agitating to be seen as a whole human being capable of love and family – but today is not the day. Today, I’m less reflective than all that. Today, I’m simply happy.

Our first full day in town, it poured down rain . . . but . . . we had a spa day planned, a spa DAY. I had never taken a whole day at a spa, or – let’s be real – even four full hours, Wow. Let it rain!

We dressed up that night. I wore a dress, which I rarely do — I know, twice in one week?!  Our waiter gave us free dessert.

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But my FAVORITE days were when we hiked.

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 … when we had tea at the Biltmore …

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(very Harry Potter-esque, don’t you think?)

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… and, of course, when we discovered that we’d booked the wrong dates in our second hotel, got marked as a no-show, and took the only room they had available:

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(I know: You’re hurting for us, right?)

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“My friend just got married at the courthouse on Friday!” the young woman told us when she checked us in. We shared her excitement and her pride, and soon learned that her friend – and colleague – was among the first 19 couples to be wed in Asheville. What a moment to be gay, and alive, and here, and wed.

They gifted us with red wine, balloons, truffles and local honey.

“Love wins,” they say in North Carolina.

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I agree.

With every fiber of my being, I agree.

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Love Wins.

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Snapshot

1 May

photo album square on quiltMuch of my job this week has been selecting photos. For a report.

Good photos tell a story. They touch your heart. They offer a window into a rich moment in someone’s life. But it’s hard to find just the right photo, one that tells the story you need to tell right now.

Which got me thinking: What photo would tell the story of my life? My real life, with the dogs resting on my bed and the cats meowing to go outside? With my daughter sleeping in the other room and my partner out for drinks with a friend? With the computer on my lap in the bed? Which picture tells this story?

Is this even the story I want to tell?

Facebook has us telling stories like these all the time – but always with a zing, a twist, a joke, or a Deep Thought. Because otherwise, who cares about the dog now snoring beside me or the cat who thinks he’s a dog at the door? Could be any dog. Any cat. Who cares? So we frame it. We tell a story ABOUT it. We don’t post just the picture. Or – we rarely do. We embellish. We colorize. We crop. We enhance. We edit.

But I want the bold moment, unadorned. The reunion after a week apart. The first swim across the pool. The moment I first held my baby in my arms.

I remember the moment I first held my baby in my arms, of course, even without the picture. I’d been snapping photos for half an hour, but once I had her in my arms, really had her in my arms, having abandoned the camera, I wouldn’t let her go. I held her, I think, for a full hour, although my partner and our eldest were eager to hold her again, too. She was mine, really mine, and I was amazed.

But these unadorned mind-blowing moments, I rarely record in words or on film. They are simply what is.

So what photo would tell the story of my life today? Would taking a snapshot make it more or less important than it feels right now?

A computer on my lap. A dog at my feet.

On my night stand – A half empty beer can. My phone charger curled on a stack of books. A small square photo album stuffed with polaroids from 1972. Chapstick. A pen. Scrabble tiles that spell my name (Thank you, Jocelyn). A green swirly cup with a lid and a straw (if you have cats, you’ll understand). Cien quetzales de Guatemala. Reading glasses – the plain ones, not the ones I carry in my purse. A sliver of red Arizona rock. The book I’m reading now. My Droid.

Five pairs of shoes on the floor by my bed – my everyday Docs, black; some casual/dress shoes, also black, with grey stitching, which I bought years ago in Spain; bright orange slip-ons from Morocco; brown Rocket Dogs with small orange and green hearts all over, and gold skulls; tall black vinyl boots. And slippers with faux fur lining, probably fifteen years old now, ready to be replaced except they are – so clearly – my faves.

These objects tell the story of my life tonight.

Just as a tiny bedroom with white shelves all around, green carpeting, and a window I always kept cracked just the tiniest bit even in winter, told the story of my life as a child.

Is there a photo that tells the story of your life? What objects do you have close at hand?

Stories of Motherhood: LTYM 2014

17 Jan

I had a tremendous experience last year. I submitted a story to Listen to Your Mother. I was invited to audition, and ultimately got cast in the show. I met bloggers, writers, moms, not-moms, creative people. I got to stand in the light. So. Much. Fun.

Why am I telling you this now, today, one year later? Because now it’s your turn! Submissions for 2014 in Chicago are OPEN  until January 29 — but if you don’t live in Chicago, don’t despair — Listen to Your Mother is in 32 cities nationwide.

Everyone has a story to tell, a story of being a mom, having a mom, knowing a mom . . .

Here’s what I shared last year, before this story – my story and the story of so many other families – changed:

The Real Thing

My stepdaughter mentioned in passing one day when she was about 12 that it was “illegal” for two women to get married. She stopped me dead in my tracks as I was crossing the living room. “What do you mean by ‘illegal’?” I asked her. Did she feel my relationship with her mother was something to be ashamed of? After years of my partner’s care to be always “out”, everywhere, casual but proud, seamlessly dropping my name and our relationship into conversations with teachers, other parents and caretakers… I needed to know.

“Well, I just meant… I mean… isn’t it illegal?”

I said, “It isn’t that we are breaking the law – It’s just that the law doesn’t recognize our family. The law doesn’t support us, but it doesn’t make us criminals.”

Her eyes relaxed, her body softened, and the corners of her mouth turned up, almost into a smile. She seemed relieved.

But this is why I believe marriage should be legal for any two women or two men who want it.

There are plenty of practical reasons involving inheritance and hospital visitation, taxes and property rights, but for me the main reason is that without the law, our children – and colleagues and friends – remain confused.

My stepdaughter’s 22 now, but my partner and I were chatting about marriage and civil unions in front of our second grader before bedtime, and she – the little one – interrupted to declare that her Mama and I should wait until the laws are completely fair before we get married, because it’s just not right to have some of the benefits but not all of them and we should hold out for the real thing.

Wow! Times have changed.

But what is the real thing? Does the state define what’s real? Do the feds? The feds hold the power to award more than one thousand benefits, rights and responsibilities with that certificate of marriage. So even though I really, truly, deeply believe that what I have at home is the real thing – no matter what it’s called – I want a piece of that, too. That contract. That security. I do.

Because how do you explain to an 8-year-old why her family is not protected and revered and respected the same way her friends’ families are, when the love and commitment are just as real?

I shouldn’t worry, though. She gets it. The young one. The older one, too. They know what’s real.

I went on a business trip last year and my first morning home, I saw my daughter’s outfit for school – the young one – laid out on the floor of her bedroom – a pair of leggings and a t-shirt I haven’t seen in a long time. “I {heart} my moms,” it said boldly in purple on the front. I think she chose it because she missed me while I was gone. Little cutie. I was touched, but I wasn’t sure she was ready for the comments it might invite.

I debated silently how I might open a conversation that would show me whether or not she was prepared to wear this t-shirt all day, but she opened the conversation on her own. “I wish it didn’t have an ‘s’,” she said. About the word “Moms.”

“Is that embarrassing?” I asked.

“No,” she said, picking up the shirt with her chin thrust forward. Pride or defiance? I couldn’t be sure.

I needed to know if she was ready before she got that shirt over her head. How many years of “lesbian moms totally rock” would be undone if she had to take the shirt off her body before school? I had to talk fast.

“Anybody who sees your shirt will know you have two moms. But most of them know anyway, don’t they?” She shrugged, lifted the shirt to pull it over her head – and stopped.

She noticed the back of her shirt had words on it, too. “Fighting for our rights,” she read. “I can do that!” she threw a couple mock karate kicks. “I can do karate! Or guns.”

“This doesn’t require that kind of fighting.”

“What kind of fighting, then?” She answered herself. “Fighting with words.”

“That’s right!” I said. “We’ve got to fight for what’s right with our words.”

“Is that because people think gay is bad?” she asked.

“Yup. People sometimes think gay is bad when they don’t think they know any gay people. People have a lot of wrong ideas about things they don’t understand.” She nodded decisively and began brushing her teeth.

She knew what she was doing.

I decided she was either tough as nails (sometimes true) or confident she had the support she needed to pull it off. And if she changed her mind partway through the day – well, she was wearing a sweatshirt she could easily zip over those words any time.

In the end, she reported only one negative comment, although I suppose there may have been others. “You can’t have two moms,” an older student apparently said. “Yes you can,” my daughter replied. “No, you can’t,” insisted the girl.

My daughter stopped, looked at the girl and said, “Well, I do.”

Since you asked…

7 Nov

After eleven years with Kelly – an international move, three local moves, adoption, working together to parent a teen, more than one family health crisis, after… well … eleven years of sharing meals, job struggles, job changes, cars, friends, pets and travels, (there is no way to put this into perspective, but) after eleven years of life together, Kelly and I are engaged.

She accepted my proposal via Facebook. She said, “Dear Roi, since you asked… I’ll answer. YES.” The day the Illinois House voted for equality.

This is when elation finally lifted me over the clouds like a super-helium balloon. For years, this has been a civil rights moment to build for, an unrealistic goal, a pie in the sky dream, a possibility, an eventuality, a likelihood, a shocking inevitability and then BAM, it’s done and not only that, but now it’s a romantic moment, too, and my whole heart explodes. How do I express this? I cannot.

We have details to decide – size and style, timing – but there’s no rush. The law doesn’t take effect until June, when Illinois will be the fifteenth state to affirm same-sex marriage. Have you heard the radio reports?

We told the girls, of course. They are happy. All night, Miss E kept saying, “I’m so excited!” Grace called us, and posted to her Facebook page – where more than 80 of her friends clicked “Like.”

And yet… we’re here already. Right?

How many times have I explained us as married to Miss E’s friends, referencing the white gold band on the ring finger of my left hand? Talking about promises, vows, love, our life together. How many times?

Will marriage change our everyday lives?

There have always been more important things to fight for, so many important struggles – more tangible, more urgent, closer to the ground, more central to survival. I know this. Some of these are fights I’m fighting now.

But there is something magical about this moment and I am deeply grateful to the people who would not let go. Now. This. Is a cultural shift. This feels like my heart exploding. Simply love, simply being who we are. How does the law touch me like this, at my core?

I continue life today as I lived it last week and the week before. I travel to the office, to school and home. I interact with my daughter’s friends (and sometimes my own). I eat, sleep, write. I watch TV with my loving partner, our days and nights punctuated by the barking of dogs.

Summer 2013 Ice Cream Eating DogsBut there is something new here now. Inside me. Security? Bravery? Resolve? There is something in me that doesn’t worry anymore that my life as I know it will one day be taken away. The fog around the edges has cleared. Because of Kelly? Because of the law? It was never a conscious worry – but it was there, nonetheless, and now it is gone.

Is it really this simple? No. There is something more. Something I cannot explain. But this – this feeling – is something I want to save. To savor. Even if some of the words are not yet right. This is the beginning of something new. A moment in history. So –

Thank you to everyone who made this happen. Just – Thank you for hanging on.

And we’re off

9 Aug

“Mami, do you think I’m from another planet?”

“No, Honey. I think you’re from this planet.”

“I’m really strong.”

“Yes, you are. You’re very strong.” In our last house, she had to open and close the huge, heavy sliding glass door for all her friends when they came over. No one but her could make it budge. She’s carried my computer bag, our suitcases, giant chairs across the living room. I am not just pumping up her self-esteem. She is strong.

“Stronger than my friends.”

These days, she gives everything that comparative PUNCH. I don’t know how to break her of the habit, and I wrack my brain, trying to remember if I passed through a similar stage. Am I passing through it even now?

“And I’m short.”

“Just wait ’til we go to Guatemala, Sweetheart. We’ll see a lot of people your size.” She is suddenly quiet, pondering this. My nine year-old. She knows this; she’s heard it, but she may not believe it.

Because this is how she looked the last time we were in Guatemala — when we met each other for the first time — this is how she looked when we left:

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And this is how she looks now:

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What she knows about her birth country is what she’s read in books. Or heard from the people around her, the people who love her, the people who live here. In the United States.

But this Wednesday, we get on a plane – Kelly, Grace, Miss E, and Me – for a family trip to Guatemala. We are staying by Lake Atitlan, one of the most beautiful places in the world. She will finally have context, sense memory, her own impressions of this place: Where she was born, where blood relatives live, this place with people who look (who feel? who think? who act?) like her.

We will not meet her birth family. Not this time. Not until later, and only then if it’s something she wants.

Instead – together – we will learn the place a little, and feel the lake breeze, and mix with people who’ve lived there all their lives, and some who (like us) are visiting. We will drink coffee and walk and play games with each other at night sometimes. We will see people my daughter’s size, and we will talk – long conversations in small bits – while we are there.

We will share. Privately. Publicly. Slowly, I expect, when we come back home.

Or maybe the words will come all in a rush.

Each of us in our own time.

Filling in detail. Adding color.

Finding our footing, our phrasing, and our place as we go.

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The simple truth is: We don’t yet know.

Listen to Your Mother!

10 Jul

Really. Listen.

The “Listen to Your Mother” videos – from Chicago, and from each of the other 24 cities – are NOW LIVE. So grab a coffee. Grab a martini, a bourbon, a beer. Sit down with a friend. Relax. Enjoy.

  • Looking for the Chicago Playlist? Click here.
  • Wanna know what I look like on stage? Here’s me.
  • Curious to see what our AWESOME producers and writing/social media mavens, Tracey Becker and Melisa Wells had to say about us all? Go here.

And now – I’d love to stay and chat, but I have to pick my daughter up from camp. You know how it is.

Going to BlogHer this month? Tell me! I’d love to make a new friend.

An Historic Day

28 Jun

I had the great privilege of working remotely this week . . .

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. . . while my daughter and her cousin attended day camp in the woods.

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The actual woods. Very unlike any urban camps they might have attended close to home, their activities here were things like archery, kayaking, fishing (okay, so they both opted out of this one), crafting, swimming, rock climbing, and – well – chalk drawing. They were also told that “totem” meant “pole” so we had to clear that up. But all in all? Amazing.

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As we drove to camp Wednesday morning, we scanned the radio for music we all might like. Have you tried that? With two tweens in your backseat? We found one with a good beat, clean language, very little DJ interruption… and surprisingly quick headline news (my hand poised on the dial to turn it): “The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act today, at 9 o’clock Eastern.” That may not be exactly what they said, but it’s pretty close.

And suddenly, we were talking about marriage and fairness and how many times people could get married (twice if you married in both the U.S. and India; twice or more if you got divorced), who people can marry (whoever they like, of course! right?), who cares (not just gay people), and which branch of government has the final say (um: all?).  We talked about state responsibility and how laws change, and they agreed to exit my car in the pouring rain only after I promised to tell them the decision just as soon as camp was done.

I wondered silently if any other campers had this on their minds.

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When I came back that afternoon and shared the good news, they jumped up and down and waved their swimming towels, climbed into my car, peppering me with questions, and then we swam off our raft in the middle of the lake.

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By the end of the day, the historic decision had been distilled simply to, “The Supreme Court says YES!”

Then it rained. And then it stopped.

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And then we swam again. And fed the swans, Gertrude and Alice . . .

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. . . with Aunties who stopped by to finish the week with us.

We treated ourselves to rootbeer floats at a drive-in.

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And roasted marshmallows. Because we were away from home and it was summer and life was good.

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a brick, a boat, and something to calm me down

10 Aug

“Can’t you put a brick on her head?” my dad asked this week. To keep her from growing. My daughter.

My parents said this about me daily for years.  “Can’t we put a brick on her head?”  It wasn’t meant to be harsh.  It was a statement of desire. Of longing. Of loss. Time moves so quickly that I suppose by now I’ve grown tall.  I don’t know.  Would 5’6″ be considered tall?

Friday night, my daughter attended her first sleepover party.  No cousins, no parents, no muss, no fuss.  We arrived at the house, she handed her gift to the parental host, scampered downstairs to a room decorated in balloons, and was immediately invited to dance with her giggly friends.  “Bye, Mom!” she said to us both – my partner and I – dismissing us with hardly a glance.  We were clearly free to head back upstairs.  And out the front door.

Saturday night, she opened a book on African-American heritage and asked me about the Amistad.  We discussed slave ships for the first time.  And what it means to revolt.  I didn’t offer any full color descriptions, but she understood enough.  Kidnapping. Water. Darkness. No chance of escape. Swords. Attack. Death. None of it okay, but all of it true.  She’s beginning to see how life sometimes goes far beyond unfair.

“What am I, Mami?” she asked as we read.

“Do you mean, are you Black?” I asked.

She shook her head as if I should know better by now and said, “No, Mami, I mean what AM I?  What do you call it?”

“Latina. Native American. Guatemalan. Mayan.”  Trying to break it down, going through the words we’ve been using for years.

“You mean mixed?”  I could see she was having these conversations now with people other than me.

“No, not really.  Native American – more specifically Mayan.  Latina – more specifically Guatemalan.”

“Oh.”  I knew I was fumbling, and she didn’t fully understand. She is so many things. Someday, she’ll have enough information to define herself.  Until then, we’ll search together for the right words.

Sunday night, she opened “The Polar Express” and declared that Santa wasn’t real. Are you serious, Child? We chatted a long time about that.  Finally she said, “I want you to tell me the TRUTH, Mami.”  She agreed not to announce it over the loudspeaker in Target or spill the beans with all her friends, some of whom certainly hold a different opinion on the matter.

Can we just cut out paper dolls for a minute, please?

Now she wants to go back and inventory every Santa gift she’s ever received.  “Who gave me that?” she wants to know.  “Was it you?  Was it Mama?  This was really from Grandma, wasn’t it?”

Monday morning, she asked me, “Who made up Santa?” followed quickly by “When were the first babies born?”  I hadn’t been awake ten minutes.  I was still in the shower.  Without coffee.  In other words, I was not at my best.

By 8:15 a.m., I am walking with purpose through the main part of my office, in search of a colleague with kids older than mine.  I do, after all, work for a non-profit that’s all about moms and babies, families and communities, parenting, modeling, finding power and offering support. Every single colleague with kids older than mine is gone.  Busy.  Out of the office.  Vacationing or holding meetings off-site.  The nerve.

So Monday night, I eat three ice cream bars.  They help me think.  They calm me down.

And now my daughter wants me to explain what I mean by the word, “Mature.”

Eating three ice cream bars at one time? That’s not it.

I don’t know, honey, but you’re figuring it out. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Growing. Just keep being who you are.

Mami, am I Black?

2 Mar

“Mami, am I Black?”

“No, Sweetheart.  You’re Brown.”  That’s not much of an explanation, is it?

We remind her that she’s Mayan Guatemalan – the same terms we’ve used for seven years now.  These are words she can identify with, but their meaning deepens each time we have some version of the conversation we’re having now.  Her questions are about identity.  Loyalty.  Affiliation.  Right now, it’s about skin color. She looks at her skin, and at us with confusion.  We try again.  “You’re Latina,” we begin – like Grace, her sister, born to a Caucasian mother and an Ecuadorian father.  “And you’re Mayan… Native American” like her good friend from school.

We try to stay with familiar words, and build out from there.  Born into one culture and adopted out of it.  How do you tell that story?  We try to keep our language simple, adding layers as she grows.  So…

Black.  Let’s talk about Black.  Many of our daughter’s friends are Black.  It’s who she identifies most with at school, as a group.  They are beginning to split into groups now as early as second grade.  Earlier even, I’m told.  In a way, she needs to be Black where we live, because then she sees immediately where she belongs.

Yet she knows she’s not Black.  Even before she asks, she knows.

“Black is a word people use for African-American, people whose ancestors came from Africa.  People with dark skin whose ancestors are from someplace other than Africa are often called Brown.”  Do you ever have those moments when you think:  Why didn’t I practice this one verbatim ‘til I got it right, because this right here, this first explanation of a particular piece of the puzzle is the one that sticks, the one she’ll tell and re-tell herself and her family as she grows older and tries to trace things back to their origins?  No?  Well, okay.  You’re lucky then.

At some point, she nods, seems to take it all in, and asks if she can order hot lunch tomorrow.

* * *

A few days later, I give her a children’s book called Freedom Summer, about two friends, a Black boy and a White boy in a small Southern town the day their neighborhood pool was integrated.  The two boys walk together to the pool, and find it’s paved over.  It’s a heartbreaking book, but she needs to know what happened, how things were.  She needs to know this country’s history, bit by bit by bit, and this is a story she can relate to because these boys, either one of them, could be her.

“It’s still happening,” my colleague says when I tell her about giving my daughter this book.  I tell her I know, and I want my daughter to recognize it when it happens.  When what happens?

“I’m glad I’m not Black,” my daughter says when we finish the book.  I am silent probably a moment too long.  Finally, I tell her a friend of mine who’s Mexican American remembers segregation, and Brown people were seen the same as Black people much of the time.  It doesn’t do her any good to separate herself.  It doesn’t do her any good to throw herself in with them either, though.  She looks a bit panicked.  “But Mami, we couldn’t swim together then!”

“Sweetheart,” I try to soothe her, but I also speak truth, “If we lived then, we would swim in a place where we could be together.  And I would fight to make sure that was possible.  We all have to fight together for what’s right.”  She snuggles into me, grateful, agreeing we all have to fight together for what’s right.  She’s mad about the men who paved over the pool.  She says if she was one of those men, she just wouldn’t have done it.  I admire her clarity.

* * *

Last night, she talked briefly about Justin Bieber, and his dislike of gay people.  I introduced the word “prejudice,” and wondered why I’d never thought to offer up that word before.  I told her it was a word for these wrong ideas about people or things someone doesn’t understand.  I told her it was important to recognize prejudice, because then you can see it’s their problem – not yours.

You say these things as a parent, and feel like you’re playing God.  Shaping a person’s world like that.

I pray that I have it right at least some of the time, because these words and ideas are meant to support her as she grows.

“I’ll fight for my two moms,” she said to me.

“And I’ll fight for my girls – for my family,” I replied.

“Good night, Mami.”  I guess that’s really what she needed, for now.

“Good night, Sweetheart.  I wish you wings in your dreams.”

“I wish you wings in  your dreams, too, Mami.”

Where do we sit today?

20 Jan

One of my earliest blog posts, Making the Bed, was featured on Mamapedia this week. I posted the link on Facebook, devoured a bagel, poured coffee into my travel mug and then walked my daughter to school.  I was the tickle tag monster and snow was “base.”

As I drove to work later that morning, I remembered the controversial TIME Magazine cover featuring Ellen DeGeneres with the bold caption, “Yep, I’m Gay” right before she flew publicly into the arms of Anne Heche (who I had the pleasure of sitting next to during an Oprah taping).  I remembered TV crews filming real gay people watching Ellen come out on national television – in their living rooms and neighborhood bars.  Not only was Ellen news, but we were, too, in 1997.  Lesbians had finally been discovered.  Now there are hundreds of lesbian mom blogs (or so I’m told, though I’ve found only three myself) and it’s a mark of pride for straight people to have gay friends.  Queer friends even, in certain crowds.

Ellen’s coming out has become part of our collective history.

It’s only the second time my blog has been featured on Mamapedia, so I’m still pretty starstruck by the whole thing – checking my stat’s every couple of hours, browsing the comments people have left in response to my post.  This puts me on Facebook a lot – my favorite news source – where I learned that shortly before our country celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Tucson schools banned books by Chicano and Native American authors, including “Rethinking Columbus,” with works by Leonard Peltier and Rigoberta Menchu.  “Students said the banned books were seized from their classrooms and out of their hands, after Tucson schools banned Mexican American Studies, including a book of photos of Mexico. Crying, students said it was like Nazi Germany, and they were unable to sleep since it happened,” reports Brenda Norrell.  I find this news chilling.

Here in Illinois, I love my daughter’s principal, I love her school, and I love her second grade teacher. My heart goes out to the students in Tucson.  I don’t know exactly what my daughter’s learned in school about MLK – but in an act of defiance last weekend, she sat in the snow and refused to move.  When I asked, “What are you doing?” she said, “I’m holding a sit-in.”

The following night before falling asleep, she said to me, “Mom? I don’t like segregation.”

“Neither do I, sweetheart,” I replied.  I hold a deep and lasting respect for the people who sat and shouted and walked and marched and sang (and did plenty of other things for a very long time) to make things change.

When I arrive at Hepzibah’s after-school program to pick-up my daughter and her friend, the children are all in rows with red tablecloths over the lunch tables, and they’re tearing into cups of Chinese fried rice.  “Is it the Chinese New Year?” I ask, vaguely aware of the parade in January.  “Mmmm-hmmm,” a couple of the kids respond, mouths full.  “Every year, we have Chinese food to celebrate the Chinese New Year,” my daughter’s friend explains, trying to shovel in a few more bites before I tell her to stand up and pack her things.  “And,” she continues with great glee, “It’s Bring-a-Thing day.”  She brought four stuffed animals.  Her favorite stuffed animals.  It’s a special treat to bring a thing to Hepzibah, because sometimes on other days, things from home are confiscated.  My daughter chose not to bring a thing today.  I don’t know why.

Finally I ask the girls to pack up so we can leave for YogaKids.

I feel especially grateful to live where we live right now, but I know it will get harder as she gets older.   I recall my stepdaughter sat in the middle school cafeteria once and counted the number of Latino students she and her friends were aware of.  There were seven, I think, including her.  So we have African drum lessons after school, yoga for all ages, and Chinese fried rice in a Hebrew-named after-school program for the Chinese New Year, but even in our little utopia, we don’t have Mexican history and we still have Columbus Day, and I don’t imagine my daughter’s classmates have ever heard of Rigoberta Menchu.

I’m curious about the future.

Where will our children – yours and mine – learn the history of people who’ve come together to create the United States?  Not just the old white guys I learned about in school, but all the movements and sit-ins and boycotts and culture shifts that brought us to where we are today?  Will they learn this in the lunchroom as they swap family stories?  In the living room with a few good books?  In the car, during snippets of conversation with their parents and adult friends?  In the classroom?

I will forever cherish the memory of my seven-year-old with her bum pressed into a snow bank, not yet aware that a sit-in is more effective when someone sits with you.  I regret that I didn’t sit down with her then.

Because for me it really comes down to this:  Who can we sit with safely, powerfully, and still be whole?

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